JURUPA VALLEY (CBSLA.com) — Parents have been notified that two students at an elementary school in Jurupa Valley had been diagnosed with leprosy.
On Friday, the Jurupa Unified School District sent a letter home to parents, notifying them that the district had received an unconfirmed report that two students at Indian Hills Elementary School had contracted what is also known as Hansen’s Disease.
“First thing I did was I called the school right the way and asked about decontamination, any kind of process, what’s going to be happening,” Vanessa Aniles said. “I was Googling the CDC website.”
Superintendent Elliott Duchon would not reveal who or how the district was notified or even if the two students are related.
But he said the information did not come from a doctor or the Riverside County Health Department, leaving parents, like Lisa Ayala, with many unanswered questions.
“We need to know what’s going on so we can take precaution for our kids,” Ayala said.
The Director of Disease Control for Riverside County Barbara Cole said a school nurse notified the health department on Friday.
Cole said the department needs to run tests and is working on talking to the two students’ parents and doctors. Either way, she said it is unlikely anyone else got the illness.
“Even if we had a confirmed case – and again, stressing these two individuals are not confirmed – the risk of transmission, meaning spreading from those two individuals to other students or staff is very very low,” Cole explained.
Still for thousands of years, the word “leprosy” has inspired fear and negative stigmas, and 2016 is no different. “I don’t even know if I want to send my kids to school at this point,” Ayala said.
Leprosy is caused by a slow-growing type of bacteria called Mycobacterium lepraean, according to WebMD.com. The infectious disease can cause severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage.
One can catch leprosy only if the person comes into close and repeated contact with mucus or saliva from an infected person.
About 180,000 people worldwide are infected with leprosy, according to the World Health Organization, most of them in Africa and Asia.